Buying Something to Force Yourself Into a New Behavior Doesn’t Work: New Rules for a New Routine

Routine- Golgatha I.  Photo by h.koppdelaney.Several people I know have a treadmill in the garage or basement of their home. They bought it with great visions in their head of walking every day, but after the newness wore off, the treadmill began to gather dust – then it was folded up and put into storage.

One reader of The Simple Dollar invested almost $1,000 in pans for her kitchen. Six months later, she’s still mostly using the microwave and the pans are gathering dust.

One of my friends bought a netbook recently, thinking she’d use it all the time to keep up with her email better for her online business. It’s still in her purse, but she claims to have only used it three times in the last month. Instead, she still uses her cell phone.

I myself have done this. Take Wii Fit, for example. When I bought it, I thought it’d be great for establishing a simple cardio exercise routine. I do use it, but instead it just comes out once a week to play mini-games on.

Each of these purchases is essentially the same story. You have a behavior you want – a fitness routine, cooking good food at home, keeping more up-to-date with email – but you’re having some difficulty establishing it. So you make a big, splashy purchase in order to kick-start things – and then you find that didn’t do the trick either, and you’re left with a lot of money sunk into something you don’t really need.

Many people have stories like this (in fact, share yours in the comments!). Why is it so prevalent? I think there are at least three reasons.

First, we have the best of intentions. Most of us do actually strive to improve ourselves, but lives are complicated. Almost every moment is a balance of different things – the things we want to do, the things we should be doing, and so on. It’s often hard, even with the best of intentions, to push another routine in there, especially a time-intensive one.

Second, advertising appeals to those intentions. We see ads for exercise equipment, think about our goals, decide that “we could do that for twenty minutes a day,” and order the equipment. A good ad is designed to do that – prey on a notion already in our head and transform it into a purchase.

Third, a new routine is perilously hard to establish. You have to make yourself do it every day, at least for the first month or two. It doesn’t come naturally.

Add these all up, and buying a piece of equipment in order to jump-start a new routine is almost always a complete waste of money.

Instead, I propose some new rules for a new routine.

First, figure out a very simple routine – don’t dive in with a complex one. Walk for fifteen minutes a day. Practice the guitar for fifteen minutes. Cook one meal a day – and keep it a fairly simple one. Check your email three times a day. Check Twitter three times a day.

Second, try establishing the routine with minimal equipment. Don’t go buy a treadmill or new running shoes. Instead, go outside and walk every day for fifteen minutes – go around the block three times or so. Don’t go buy a netbook – instead, try checking your email on the equipment you already have. Don’t go buy $1,000 worth of pans – instead, buy one low-end pot and one low-end skillet and try making some very simple dishes every day. Don’t go spend $3,000 on an electric guitar – get an old acoustic one to practice on and see if it sticks.

Third, make room for the new routine. In other words, find an unhealthy routine and minimize it. Cut your television viewing down to an hour a day – or less. Trim down your internet usage if you use it excessively. Stop going out to eat so often – cut it down to once a week. All of these choices free up time – and that free time can easily be filled by your new routine.

Finally, make reminders. Leave your equipment out where you can’t miss it. Put your guitar in your favorite chair. Sit your jogging shoes there. Keep your pans right out on the stove. Leave recipes out where you can find them. In short, make your new routine screamingly obvious at all times, giving you the best chance possible to make the leap to maintain it.

Good luck on the new routines in your life.

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  1. Alex says:

    Trent,

    I do have to say buying an expensive bicycle a few weeks ago has been one of the best of decisions. While just as expensive as your reader’s pans, I’ve used it consistently 4-5 times a week.

  2. Marie says:

    Ok, this article really hits home. Thank you. I tend to buy stuff with these exact results. Great article! Got me thinking!

    Marie=)

  3. Kat says:

    Yep. I used to do this. I am happy to say that I did buy a treadmill 5 years ago and it mostly gathered dust but since January I have been using it a minimum of 4 hours a week and usually more than that so it was a good purchase. I have no storage space though so it just sat out and finally guilted me into using it.

    I recently ended an almost 2 decade long friendship with a person who does this to an extreme. She is a freelancer and when she works she makes good money but she can never count on the work. When she is raking in the bucks she buys and buys and buys and as a result her small home is a cluttered mess. When the work doesn’t come she lists her purchases on ebay to survive. She once bought a $4000 electronic keyboard (she does not play and never has). It gathered dust for 18 months – never used – and then was sold on ebay for $1400. It has been the same story with exercise equipment, home improvement tools, collectibles and, unfortunately, pets. At 47 she has no savings and no retirement account.

    She has been the best lesson to me about what NOT to do.

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    There’s a great bit in the first Shopaholic book where the girl is trying to save money and decides to make a “simple” curry. She ends up buying pots, pans, spices, etc, all of which would be a good investment–if she had the faintest idea how to cook. As it is, it’s not pretty.

    For me, it’s almost always journals that end up gathering the dust. Sometimes other stuff, but I go through journalling phases often enough that it’s noticeable. There will be days at a time where I need to write a couple pages, weeks where I write daily, and then months where blogging and tweeting gets it done for me. I recently started journalling in the back of an old college notebook and I’ve promised myself a nice journal once I finish this one.

    One thing I’ve found about exercise equipment is that sometimes you can get people to give or sell it to you for very little because they’re ashamed to have it around and just want it gone.

  5. Steve says:

    Very nicely put, Trent!

    Money can’t buy love, money can’t by motivation, money can’t buy… most intangibles needed for success or happiness. The intangible asset (drive, motivation, positive feelings, etc) have to be there first before the money brings long-lasting impact. Now, I have to go study as just having the study material or paying for the exam will not bring me success in the actual exam ;-)

  6. Jules says:

    Fifth major reason: no positive reinforcement. It’s slightly more complicated with people, but the fact is that we are emotionally identical to dinosaurs: if it brings about something good, we’ll keep doing it. Your rewards probably ought to be more complicated (and healthier?) than a little snack every time you do something you wanted, but what works for dogs also works quite well for people.

  7. Simon says:

    Well, for physical activities to improve health and fitness, I think a very important factor for motivation is the presence of peer pressure.

    I started working out in the gym 6 months ago and it was my friends that kept me going. After about 2 months, I was visiting the gym 4 days a week and I didn’t need them to go to the gym with me anymore.

    Sometimes you just need someone else to push you.

  8. Gwen says:

    A few weeks ago I decided that I needed to be more frugal so I went out and bought a new version of the Complete Tightwad Gazette. Of course I read through it for a few days, but now it is gathering dust.
    I knew that a lot of Amy’s tips could be found on websites like The Simple Dollar, but ironically, I thought if I could just buy something new, like that book, I would magically be more frugal!

  9. Andy says:

    I completely agree with this post. I’m always tempted to buy the gadget that will help with something I want to do. Thankfully I’ve become much better at recognizing and resisting these urges. For instance I’ve started running every other day (mostly, I haven’t been perfect), but I’ve kept myself from buying new running shoes. I also want to bake bread much more often, but I’ve resisted buying a kitchen scale and fancy bread cookbooks since I know I can cook bread without them.

    The other upside is that if your new habit does work, when you are ready to buy the new equipment you’ll have a much better idea of what you want and need, probably saving money and/or getting a better value.

  10. Anne KD says:

    Palm T5, and stamping stuff. Should’ve bought an iPod instead of the Palm. For the stamping, I knew I would never make scrapbooking pages, that’s so totally not my thing. But my own cards? Sure! So years later, and I still have rubber stamps I’ve never used, inks I’ve never used, so on and so forth. Anybody want some paper? I didn’t go overboard at all buying this stuff, always kept well within my ‘play money’ budget- but this money would have been better spent elsewhere. Turns out I have much more interest in doing stuff with my hands like making jewelry and gardening, something that I should have known just by remembering how much I loved working in the research lab. I’m so interested in the jewelry thing that I am taking a class at the local county art association (much cheaper than a university class for something I might not be interested in) which has the added benefit of helping the art association to keep their doors open.

  11. MoneyEnergy says:

    Excellent points, I’ve seen these happen, too. I say start small. Use baby steps, whatever will guarantee that you can start out with some success. You can then build your confidence and motivation on that. If you want to train at the gym, don’t try to go five times a week right from the start. Just make sure you can get there once a week, then build on that once it becomes easy. That’s what I’ve done. Now hopefully I’m doing the same thing with nutrition – getting back into healthier foods.

  12. Jamie says:

    Palm, to help me ‘get organized’. I should have paid for a smart phone, which I now have (issued from work). I use the calendar function constantly.

    On the flip side of that coin, I bought a Garmin Forerunner shortly after taking up running and consider it one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Being able to see my pace and distance was a great motivator; it helped me lose the last fifty pounds (105 total!) and I ran my second marathon last month in 3:24:27.

  13. leslie says:

    I sort of agree with this and sort of don’t. Here is the issue I have:

    When you do start running without proper running shoes (as I did), I got blisters up the wazoo, sharp pains in my feet, and in general hated doing it and quit after two weeks. After telling someone this, they recommended I purchase some real running shoes. Not a huge investment, even the $40 ones will work, but anything better than the casual street sneakers I was wearing. I also read a little bit and made an investment in a 3 pack of running socks ($8) and tried the running thing again. For $48, all the pain and complaints went away and I actually started to enjoy running. It was a habit I could keep because it wasn’t painful to do.

    For your other example, lots of cheap pans are bad. I remember when I started cooking with hand-me down pans, everything I made burned! I swear I thought I was the worst cook ever and went back to using the microwave. Then someone who actually knew how to cook came over, used my pans, and their stuff came out awful too. It was suggested that I purchase a $20 pan at Target. No, it wasn’t going to be amazing they told me, but it should at least be able to cook evenly. And it did! Sure, that pan didn’t last a long time or anything, but when I attempted cooking on the new pan, I could at least make edible food! It gave me a lot more confidence in my cooking and was great for me to practice.

    SO, while I do agree that usually purchases do not motivate us, I do believe that it is possible to make a smaller purchase that will provide incentive and that not doing this may, in some circumstances, hinder us in incorporating the new habit.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I have to agree with Trent on this. For me, the habit I was trying to establish is running on a regular basis. I admit it was tempting at first to go out and buy new shoes, workout clothes, etc. for this. Instead, I used old clothes and an old pair of sneakers at first. It took about 3-4 months to get into a regular routine. Along the way, using my old wardrobe helped me figure out what I really needed for running. I did eventually buy a pair of shoes to use for just running, but waiting until I had the routine down meant I knew what kind of shoes I needed and allowed me to take advantage of a sale on those shoes. I also figured out that the old clothes I was using were just fine for running in. There’s not a need to go out and buy anything new. So yes, creating a habit first can save money and help you figure out what you really need.

  15. zensue says:

    I feel very humbled. You’re so right. Especially about finding a simple routine. I do have to note the irony, however, of the Google Advertisement being for treadmills…

  16. Mike Sty says:

    AMEN to that. I’m tired of “I need to exercise but I can’t do anything until I get some weights.” I started with pushups, and I’ve moved on to a kettlebell, exercise band, pull-up bar, and jump-rope for about $30 total.

  17. When I made the decision to learn japanese I bought into taking lessons for two reasons.

    1) Because I wasn’t sure how to start
    2) Because I had to solidify more intention to learn japanese and provide myself a kick start to get over the initial inertia.

    But the real purpose that lessons server were to provide a reminder and motivation. Also to buy me time to set up a routine. Overwhelming force in the beginning is useful in clearing the space to set up a routine.

  18. Anne says:

    I agree with the other comments that you shouldn’t run very much at all without buying running shoes – if all else fails, you can wear them as regular shoes, but the risk of injury (and not continuing your fitness plans) outweighs the cost.

    On the other hand, if you have access to a treadmill, or can handle jogging in place, you can run barefoot.

  19. Shevy says:

    I also agree except for the running shoes and getting at least one decent pan to cook in.

    Can I just mention my hubby’s Total Gym? In the past 7 or 8 years we’ve lived in exactly one place (for about a year) where he had a place to set it up in the basement. He used it about once a week then. The rest of the time it’s been folded up under a bed, in a storage container, up against a wall, you get the idea. But he’s going to start using it again any time now….

  20. Glenda says:

    Very nice article! I found that oftentimes, DISCIPLINE is the key to following through on a plan (whether it’s to save or to improve one’s self).

  21. cecilia says:

    I’m guilty buying new stuff just to motivate myself to change my behavior. But it does not work that way though which is quite depressing. Like Jarrod I bought Japanese books when I decided to do self-help lessons but in the end I was not able to use it.

    Now whenever I buy things just to support my new behavior I think twice. And say to myself “Do I really need this stuff NOW?”. Mostly I just shrug it off and let it go.

  22. Tim says:

    Excellent article. I will not to buy that electric guitar till I’ve spent more time practicing on my acoustic one. I will not buy that second hand laptop till I’ve built up a routine with my desktop.

  23. Fiona says:

    Let me see – the running shoes to convince me a do like running really (I don’t), the rollerblades, the bow and arrows because I knew I would love archery (I liked it but nowhere to practice), the rock tumbler, the trampoline… I could go on.
    Excellent article!

  24. While I agree with most of this post, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and it can actually work the other way around. I bought a bicycle recently and that’s got me riding around a ton. I got it so I feel like I have to use it. Otherwise, why did I buy it? So for some things it can actually work.

  25. Actually, I have a success story to share: I’ve always wanted to make my personal website, but I kept postponing it so I bought myself a web hosting plan and it worked! I worked on my website and got it up!

  26. Laura says:

    Another path to success in changing a routine is to enlist friends or a spouse. When I am accountable to others I find I can make the changes I would like. So- I don’t join a gym, but I sign up for a specific exercise class with friends.

  27. Teresa says:

    I agree. I have also come to the realization (after many many years of yo-yo dieting and many of the same things you posted in the article) that i have to have a *reason* for doing what i do. I don’t care about the weight, which is why i haven’t lost any of it. It is more important for me to be able to keep up with the little kiddos in my life without being short of breath than the weight. So i joined a gym that is on the way home for me. I met up with a personal trainer today. good luck to making changes!

  28. Dani B says:

    I agree with Leslie and some of the other posters – sometimes a moderate shiny new thing (like a pair of new sneakers – not $300 worth of lycra and sports drinks, just sneakers!) can provide the lift you need to break your routine. I think the psychological lift of ‘ooh, shiny, new!’ can help some people get over the hump of even trying to start a new routine or habit. They key is to exercise moderation (story of a life frugally lived!). For me it was realizing that I had a lot of knitting books and bits and pieces, and not so much desire to actually do anything with all of it. Committing to one huge project (an aran sweater for my Dad) and then investing in only what I needed for the project (yarn, and only yarn – I resisted temptation to add a ball of this and a ball of that to my basket, am using free patterns/my own design skills, and I actually sorted all of my needles and accessories and concluded I could knit several sweater simultaneously without needing more supplies!) has been enough to get me jazzed about designing and knitting again. The financial commitment for the yarn is pretty great, around $110, but it’ll take me somewhere between 200 – 300 hours to complete the sweater and it’ll be of high enough quality to wear for years, so for me it’s a worthy investment. I’ve also used the enlist a friend strategy here – Dad knows about the sweater and is making input into the final design, so I get asked about progress every time I call home!

  29. NZ Chick says:

    Interesting talkings… I decided to learn the guitar this year so asked around friends and family and found one I could borrow. Therefore my only costs at the moment at the lessons (community based so very cheap on a Saturday morning) and replacement strings. I definately recommend borrowing if possible. At the end of the year I will decide whether I want to continue or not (likely to) and then will buy my own guitar so that someone else may borrow this one.

    I also bought a secondhand bike to make me bike to work. Once I’d got into the rountine of biking to work, I replaced the tyres & tubes (safety issue) and then as the mornings got darker, purchased lights etc. Now that we’ve headed into winter, I’ve bought wet weather gear and gloves, and am still biking to work. The 15mins trip each way is good for the fitness, and buying bits as I go along has been easier on the bank, and I know that I have the routine set so it won’t go to waste. Also the trip by car or bike takes the same time (I have to park and then walk 6-8mins to work) so biking is much more convenient.

    Good luck everyone – there is a strategy that suits everyone out there, for all different things!!

  30. I used to work for a fitness equipment company. We’d see people do this with treadmills and homegyms and all manner of fitness equipment and diet plans every day. We referred to our equipment in most cases as “$3,000 coat racks”, because 85% of the time, that’s what they turned into within a month.

  31. Sharon says:

    I do hope that along with that bicycle you are investing in a top-of-the-line bike helmet. One head injury and the person you are dies, and you may or may not want to be the person who survives, if you do. And you certainly don’t want the bills!

  32. ell says:

    I find I stick to the activities when I invest minimal cash upfront. When I took up tennis, I bought a $50 racket, and some tennis balls, and played all the time. But I didn’t *feel* that I had to play all the time because I’d sunk money into a tennis investment. If you sink money into an activity, the motivating factor to engage in said activity is *guilt*, because you feel guilty if you don’t play, get your money’s worth, and the tool goes to waste. If you don’t invest a lot upfront, then the motivating factor isn’t tied to guilt, but sheer joy or passion of the activity itself. There is no barrier, but also no false motivation (guilt). Invest less, play more.

  33. Jim says:

    Been there, done that. We have several major purchases that were supposed to either save us money or make us money or make us healthy that didn’t get used much. Treadmill, quilt making machine, massage chair, elliptical…

    One thing that DID turn out well was an investment in family time. We had a scout ski day where two of our boys went snowboarding for the first time, and really loved it. Several months later they talked me into going to the next one. It was a disaster for me, but they really loved it again. We decided to try it out as a family the next year. We went boarding 5 times as a family. One of our boys bought his own equipment because he knew he would use it and didn’t want to waste any more money renting. Well, actually he got some of it for Christmas and bought the rest. We went once to every major ski resort within two hours of where we live. Then we took a vote. The vote was unanimous.

    That spring we took advantage of the major sales on last year’s snowboarding equipment, and outfitted the entire family. As you may guess, this wasn’t cheap. Then we bought a season pass to the resort that won the vote. The next season, this was our family vacation. We went boarding whenever we could swing it. Sometimes we took friends, and when some family members couldn’t come, sometimes they let their siblings’ friends borrow their equipment.

    Bottom line is that it was amazing as a family bonding activity. We have something major in common. Something we can talk about, learn about together, and share with others. The resort is about two hours away travel time, so there’s also the bonding time in the van. We have found ways to have a good time together while traveling.

    And there was one major bonus that I hadn’t expected. Lift time is amazingly high quality parent/child time. It’s quiet time in the middle of a beautiful nature setting, with a captive audience, where we can discuss important or trivial topics. As you can imagine, there’s no way I can keep up with any of my children on the slopes, so I pretty much waited at the bottom of the lift for one of them to come carving in, and then I rode up with whichever one(s) were next.

    This was one winter we’ll remember for a long time.

  34. Misty says:

    One “purchase” I can think of that had good intentions and has still paid off was adopting an adult dog. My son (18 months) loves his grandmother’s dogs, so we decided to adopt one. My reason? I needed something to encourage me to get out and walk at least once a day! So far, we have a happy doggie, son and at least one walk a day as I can’t say no to his brown eyes (and it is one less pile of poop to pick up in the backyard!)

  35. I love this post!

    When I saw the title the thought that flashed through my mind was all the treadmills and exercise bikes that now serve as laundry drying racks . . .

  36. Brad says:

    This is my favorite article that I have read on your site to date and I have been a reader for quite some time.

  37. Neera says:

    One thing that I find works is to find your shiny new object that you crave, and use it as a carrot in order to establish your new routine. For instance, I’ve been eyeing a gym bag for a few months now, but decided that I needed to “earn” said gym bag by establishing a routine of going to the gym 4 days a week for at least 2 months first.

    I haven’t gotten the bag yet, but I’m working towards it. Sometimes a treat for establishing the routine is a great motivator to get out and DO!

  38. bethh says:

    I used to buy cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, in hopes that I’d start having people over for meals.

    Realizing that’s what I was doing helped me stop: I’ve since gotten rid of the cookbooks I never used/didn’t like, and now I check them out from the library before deciding if I want to buy.

    I still don’t have people over for meals, but I did join a lunch group at work: One day per week, I bring food for myself and three others, and three other days of the week, I have a home-made meal waiting for me. It’s the best!

  39. Bill in Houston says:

    I have a treadmill in my garage. It was a gift from my brother (he was buying a stairmaster). I had it in my old condo and used it once in a while, but mostly in the winter. We moved into our house seven months ago. I have not unfolded the treadmill, or even moved it from where I moved it off the moving truck. Even though it didn’t cost me anything I keep it around, but I wouldn’t miss it if it were gone. I may sell it or give it to a friend.

    My wife and I prefer to walk outside. We run into many of our neighbors when we go out, which is a lot more sociable than the thunk-thunk-thunk of walking on a rubber belt while watching television.

  40. Alyx says:

    I really want a Wii and a Wii Fit to work out with. But having purchased the PS2 and Dance Dance Revolution with the same intentions, I realized that simply buying it would not work out, nor was it a good idea financially.

    My solution was simple. For ever half-hour of hardcore exercise I do, $5 goes into savings for the Wii. This forces a new behavior and reward for that behavior. I’m not pressured to work out everyday, and I don’t, but the days that I do, I’m accomplishing something. And by the time I earn the Wii, the habits will be established to use it accordingly.

  41. Lou says:

    I think the article has some great points but I have had two happy exceptions.

    I joined Weight Watchers. Knowing that I had that weekly payment was a definite jump start. Most of the information WW provided could have been found elsewhere. I found that having a financial investment made me more motivated.

    Also, I joined the YMCA. It’s not like a lot of health clubs that ask for a big deposit and you can drop your membership with 30 days notice.

    Both of those investments were good ones for me.

  42. Sierra says:

    This is so true. The one major exception I can think of is the moleskine notebook I track my spending in. I tried for years to establish a spending-tracking system I would stick with and use, and went through about a dozen cheap pocket notebooks that started out as spending notebooks and became doodle pads for my kids.

    Then I got a moleskine and devoted it solely to writing down my expenses, and have tracked every penny. Somehow spending $10 on that notebook really did help catalyze my new habit.

  43. Nathan says:

    I completely agree with the exception of the guitar. As a music teacher, I think that a beginning player should invest in a decent instrument (there are used and affordable instruments of good quality). A bad instrument is going to provide frustration and make your playing sound bad, which is what leads many people to give up. A quality instrument will sound better and motivate you to play. Even if you give up, the good craftsmanship can make it a great decoration, or it will have good resale value. I am all to aware, though, that simply owning an instrument, regardless of its quality, does not make somebody practice and become a good musician.

  44. SteveJ says:

    I think your point about cutting something out is particularly smart. I know that’s my problem, I want to work a little extra, exercise a little more, spend more time with family and friends, do a little work on home renovations, get a little more housework done, read a little more, and well, I don’t seem to have 30 hours/day to work with. Right now I’m desperately trying to get in some extra time to shoot baskets, but it seems like I don’t stop going from rise and shine till I collapse into bed.

  45. JulesT says:

    Am I the only one who uses their treadmill? I’ve had mine about 5 years and use it several times a week. It’s a godsend and has helped keep me fit when outdoor exercise was not an option. To be honest though, I bought it when a running injury and surgery forced me indoors. I keep using it because of the convenience and safety. I also wear good running shoes.

    Other than that, your points are well-taken. I wish I had heard and heeded your advice many years ago. It would have saved me literally thousands of dollars over the years on sports, cooking, and craft equipment/supplies bought before I really knew whether that activity was something I would sustain over the long run. And some, of course, were never even started. They eventually made for some great garage sale fare for others. I am now a lot older and wiser and much more thrifty.

    But I’ve never regretted buying my treadmill. And nothing ever hangs from or over it.

    Thanks for the great advice!

  46. point26 says:

    Ha! Way to place the blame of money wasting on anything and everything but yourself. If you think wii fitness is cardio, your fat, and always will be.

  47. Suzi says:

    In trying to establish a fitness routine, I have gone to the extreme – starting with just one minute a day, every day. And then I add one extra minute each week. I’m now up to week nine and haven’t missed a day.
    I too am keeping equipment to a minimum. A small medicine ball and a resistance strap is enough for strength – but I daresay you could replace the medicine ball with a big tin of beans!
    But while going for a run doesn’t require any equipment, I did need something that would help me get my heart rate up if it was too dark or wet to go outside. I decided that a bosu was the best all round investment I could make, and I haven’t regretted it. I use it regularly, and for the cost of less than a month’s gym membership I think it was well worth it.
    But as you say, none of this is worth it if you don’t take the small steps it takes to get into your routine. And for me, staying accountable by blogging about it, is what is keeping me on track. I highly reccommend it.
    Suzi
    onegoaloneminute.com

  48. Kaizan says:

    I was once given advice about starting a business that is also true of habit formation:

    Think Big but Start Small

    I love that phrase! With any new goal or habit, aim high but start small. Don’t aim for an hour at the gym straight away, just aim for five minutes. Literally five minutes. Now you might think that is ridiculous, since you’ll almost certainly spend more time travelling to the gym than actually exercising but that’s missing the point: In the beginning, it’s not about the amount of time you spend at the gym, it’s about developing the habit of actually going to the gym.

  49. TC says:

    I love this post and I can relate to it. I wanted to start cycling but I bought a cheap bike and a helmet to go with it. Guess what? I haven’t started cycling yet. And I don’t think a expensive bike can get me started.

  50. NMPatricia says:

    This was an awesome post. It hit on the nail something that I am continually doing. Sometimes I don’t actually invest because of lack of money. But I think about it – and think that things would be better if… However, they usually aren’t. Several times since this post, I have thought “I needed something” and then thought back to this post. Let’s see… could I do with what I have or substitute for or what is my proof of my commitment. Thanks, Trent.

  51. bob says:

    Well, I don’t know. It’s not always true. Actually buying an expensive stuff to create a routine worked for me a couple of time.
    For example I wanted to start running. I read somewhere that there was this cardio watch which have a fitness program built in. I bought it. Began to use it 5 times a week. In 3 months I lost 15kg. In one year 30kg… 2 years afterwards I still use this watch 3-4 times a week, and I didn’t get those kg back…
    I tried all my live to do sport, but never succeeded. Until I bought this relatively expensive thing.
    Cheers
    Bob

  52. Carrie says:

    I thought this might happen 2 summers ago when we bought a treadmill for me. I was a new mom at home, and I lived in an area not conducive for walking outside with a baby. (alright, I lived at the top of a steep hill, and I didn’t want to climb it after I was already tired from a walk.) We did some shopping around, and my husband found a good deal on a new middle range treadmill.

    I had my ups and downs with it, where I wouldn’t use it very much in a week, and when not in use, it does look like a coat hanger, but I clean it off every day, and having it was a huge component in my weight loss.

    Just because you don’t have an established routine or need doesn’t mean that you won’t develop one, but I think this post calls us to do a little bit of introspection before we make certain purchases. Do we have a history of buying big, and not following through? If so, then it might be wiser to borrow, or invest in a less expensive version, or pay for a membership somewhere until we know how much we’ll use the new toy.

  53. christy says:

    Best workout investment I made was a workout DVd on DVD swap. I researched the type of workout that someone of my fitness level and weight loss needs could accomplish without injury. I searched for reviews on various DVD’s online and then made my request for the best ones I found and similar ones I thought would work. After the 1st request was granted I withdrew the others and focused on doing the one I received. I set a time of day and left the supplies I needed in plain view in a little basket near my TV. I am not as faithful as I wish I was but have done better at this than other excercise investments especially considering the cost!

  54. Amy says:

    Haha, my S.O. just bought a treadmill this week! We’ll see… I prefer to walk the dogs because I’m doing something for them and it’s good for me too.

    I did start biking to work, but I pulled my old bike out of the shed. I quickly learned I needed a couple of smaller items, like a different type of tire and lights and rack, but I stuck with it. As a reward after liking the habit I bought myself a new bike–but I learned a lot about what that bike type should be before I went out and spent the money. Now I’m signing up for group rides and using it a lot, and I’m still in love with my big purchase!

  55. uriel says:

    It worked for me trent. Bought expensive gym membership – that forced me to go. Year later Im still going. The difference is I enjoy jogging so I kept going specially because it was so expensive. I think the examples you gave were of people who didnt really enjoy their new hobby.

  56. Cindy B. says:

    Thanks Trent. My teen daughter asked to join the gym to loose weight, and I needed help to articulate why she would most likely not continue to go.
    Turns out she has a one-month free pass that she can use this summer, with a girlfriend.

  57. gail_d says:

    If I could favorite this post, I would! Starting small works for me; I tend to get discouraged when my goals are too big (lose weight, get fit) AND require a big outlay of time, equipment, etc.

    Per Thoreau: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

  58. Chris Cruz says:

    A few years ago I bought a Palm(before blackberrys were mainstream) thinking I would use it to be more organized and have another toy to play with. I rarely used it and was just better off using a notebook planner. Luckily I resold it on Ebay for more than I bought it. My girlfriends sister is really trying to lose weight so she bought a $1000+ treadmill. Before that she had a personal trainer that was $250 a month. She tries to justify the purchase saying she doesn’t have to make payments for a year. I haven’t seen any progress. I nodd my head at her thinking buying the weight off will work but she’s only 19 and I’m not her parents.

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